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within narrow and gloomy limits by known to every heart, the latter only the nature of his subject, his creative to a few." spirit equals that of Homer himself. The melancholy tone which perHe has given birth to as many new vades Dante's writings was doubtless, ideas in the Inferno and the Paradiso, in a great measure, owing to the misas the Grecian bard in the Iliad and fortunes of his life; and to them we Odyssey.
are also indebted for many of the most Though he had reflected so much caustic and powerful of his versesand so deeply on the human heart, perhaps for the design of the Inferno and was so perfect a master of all the itself. He took vengeance on the anatomy of mental suffering, Dante's generation which had persecuted and mind was essentially descriptive. He exiled him, by exhibiting its leaders was a great painter as well as a pro- suffering in the torments of hell. In found thinker ; he clothed deep feels his long seclusion, chiefly in the monasing in the garb of the senses ; he con- tery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avelceived a vast brood of new ideas, he lana, a wild and solitary retreat in arrayed them in a surprising manner the territory of Gubbio, and in a tower in flesh and blood. He is ever clear belonging to the Conte Falcucci, in and definite, at least in the Inferno. the same district, his immortal work He exhibits in every canto of that was written. The mortifications he wonderful poem a fresh image, but it underwent during this long and disis a clear one, of horror or anguish, mal exile are thus described by himwhich leaves nothing to the imagina. self:—“Wandering over almost every tion to add or conceive. His ideal part in which our language extends, characters are real persons ; they I have gone about like a mendicant; are present to our senses; we feel showing against my will the wound their flesh, see the quivering of their with which fortune has smitten me, limbs, hear their lamentations, and and which is often falsely imputed to feel a thrill of joy at their felicity. the demerit of him by whom it is enIn the Paradiso he is more vague dured. I have been, indeed, a vessel and general, and thence its acknow- without sail or steerage, carried about ledged inferiority to the Inferno. to divers ports, and roads, and shores, But the images of horror are much by the dry wind that springs out of more powerful than those of happi- sad poverty.” Dess, and it is they which have en- In the third circle of hell, Dante tranced the world. “It is easier," sees those who are punished by the says Madame de Staël, “ to convey plague of burning sand falling perpeideas of suffering than those of happi- tually on them. Their torments are ness ; for the former are too well thus described
“ Supin giaceva in terra alcuna gente ;
Quella che giva intorno era più molta ;
Sovra tutto 'l sabbion d'un cader lento
Quali Alessandro in quelle parti calde
Inferno, c. xiv.
O'er all the sand fell slowly wafting down
Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
Cary's Dante, c. xiv.
“ Luogo è in Inferno, detto Malebolge,
Nel dritto mezzo del campo maligno
Quel cinghio che rimane adunque è tondo
Inferno, c. xvii.
Cary's Dante, c. xviii. This is the outward appearance of Malebolge, the worst place of punishment in hell. It had many frightful abysses; what follows is the picture of the first :
“ Ristemmo per veder l'altra fessura
Quale nell' arzana de' Veneziani
Tal non per fuoco ma per divina arte,
Che inviscava la ripa d'ogni parte.
E gonfiar tutta e riseder compressa.
per lo scoglio venire.
L'omero suo ch'era acuto e superbo
La il buttò e per lo scoglio duro
Quei s'attuffò e tornô su convolto;
Qui si nuota altramenti che nel Serchio :
Però se tu non vuoi de' nostri graffi,
Poi l'addentar con più di cento raffi,
Inferno, c. xxi.
Marvellous darkness shadow'd o'er the place.
In the Venetians' arsenal as boils
Him dashing down, o'er the rough rock he turn'd;
Cary's Dante, c. xxi.
But his mind was not formed merely chapel of the Crucifix, under the roof
of his conceptions, the vigour of bis Never did artist work with more drawing, his incomparable command persevering vigour than Michael An- of bone and muscle, his lofty expresgelo. He himself said that he la- sion and impassioned mind, made him boured harder for fame, than ever neglect, and perhaps despise, the poor artist did for bread. Born lesser details of his art. Ardent in of a noble family, the heir to con- the pursuit of expression, he often siderable possessions, he took to the overlooked execution. When he arts from his earliest years from en- painted the Last Judgment or the Fall thusiastic passion and conscious power. of the Titans in fresco, on the ceiling During a long life of ninety years, he and walls of the Sistine Chapel, he was prosecuted them with the ardent zeal incomparable ; but that gigantic style of youth. He was consumed by the was unsuitable for lesser pictures or thirst for fame, the desire of great rooms of ordinary proportions. By achievements, the invariable mark of the study of his masterpieces, subseheroic minds; and which, as it is al- quent painters have often been led together beyond the reach of the great astray; they have aimed at force of bulk of mankind, so is the feeling of expression to the neglect of delicacy all others which to them is most in- in execution. This defect is, in an escomprehensible. Nor was that noble pecial manner, conspicuous in Sir enthusiasm without its reward. It Joshua Reynolds, who worshipped was his extraordinary good fortune to Michael Angelo with the most debe called to form, at the same time, voted fervour; and through him it has the Last Judgment on the wall of the descended to Lawrence, and nearly Sistine Chapel, the glorious dome of the whole modern school of England. St Peter's, and the group of Notre When we see Sir Joshua's noble glass Dame de Pitié, which now adorns the window in Magdalen College, Ox
* The finest design ever conceived by Michael Angelo was a cartoon representing warriors bathing, and some buckling on their armour at the sound of the trumpet, which summoned them to their standards in the war between Pisa and Florence. It perished, however, in the troubles of the latter city; but an engraved copy remains of part, which justifies the eulogiums bestowed upon it.
ford, we behold the work of a worthy done, because great efforts are not papil of Michael Angelo ; we see the made. great style of painting in its proper None will work now without the place, and applied to its appropriate prospect of an immediate return. object. But when we compare his very possibly it is so; but then let us portraits, or imaginary pieces in oil, not hope or wish for immortality. with those of Titian, Velasquez, or " Present time and future,” says Sir Vandyke, the inferiority is manifest. Joshua Reynolds, “are rivals; he who It is not in the design but the finishing; solicits the one must expect to be dispot in the conception but the execu- countenanced by the other.” It is not tion. The colours are frequently raw that we want genius ; what we want and harsh; the details or distant is the great and heroic spirit which parts of the piece ill-finished or ne- will devote itself, by strenuous efforts, glected. The bold neglect of Michael to great things, without seeking any Angelo is very apparent. Raphael, reward but their accomplishment. with less original genius than his im- Nor let it be said that great subjects mortal master, had more taste and for the painter's pencil, the poet's much greater delicacy of pencil; his muse, are not to be found—that they conceptions, less extensive and varied, are exhausted by former efforts, and are more perfect; his finishing is al- nothing remains to us but imitation. ways exquisite. Unity of emotion Nature is inexhaustible; the events was bis great object in design ; equal of men are unceasing, their variety is delicacy of finishing in execution. endless. Philosophers were mourning Thence he has attained by universal the monotony of time, historians were consent the highest place in paint- deploring the sameness of events, in
the years preceding the French Revo“Nothing,” says Sir Joshua Rey- lution on the eve of the Reign of nolds, " is denied to well-directed Terror, the flames of Moscow, the labour ; nothing is to be attained retreat from Russia. What was the without it.” “Excellence in any de- strife around Troy to the battle of partment," says Johnson, “
Leipsic?—the contests of Florence be attained only by the labour of a and Pisa to the revolutionary war? lifetime; it is not to be purchased at What ancient naval victory to that of a lesser price." These words should Trafalgar? Rely upon it, subjects for ever be present to the minds of all genius are not wanting; genius itself, who aspire to rival the great of for- steadily and perseveringly directed, is mer days; who feel in their bosoms a the thing required. But genius and spark of the spirit which led Homer, energy alone are not sufficient; COURDante, and Michael Angelo to im- AGE and disinterestedness are needed mortality. In a luxurious age, com- more than all. Courage to withstand fort or station is deemed the chief the assaults of envy, to despise the good of life ; in a commercial commu- ridicule of mediocrity-disinterestednity, money becomes the universal ness to trample under foot the seducobject of ambition. Thence our ac- tions of ease, and disregard the attracknowledged deficiency in the fine arts; tions of opulence. An heroic mind is thence our growing weakness in the more wanted in the library or the higher branches of literature. Talent studio, than in the field. It is wealth looks for its reward too soon. Genius and cowardice which extinguish the seeks an immediate recompense ; long light of genius, and dig the grave of protracted exertions are never at literature as of nations. tempted ; great things are not
VOL. LVII. NO. CCCLI.